Hi from BC, Canada

This is pygmycory, you might know me from ecosophia or the archdruid report. In any case, nice to meet everybody.

The main greenwizardly things I do are food gardening and textiles. I grow vegetables, herbs, small fruit, and I'm working on larger fruit, all of it without the nasty chemicals. I like to spin and weave, and I also do some sewing, knitting, and cooking for practical reasons. Most of the sewing is mending things, and I cook to live, rather than live to cook.

Hi Pygmycory, welcome aboard!

We aren't always an active group but if you spend some time going through the forum posts, you'll discover that we cover all kinds of subjects.

We like practical advice here.

Hi Teresa, that sounds good, and thank you for the welcome. It certainly looks interesting when I poked about, if fairly slow-moving.

Very nice to make your acquaintance. Along with garden in Utah, the mountain west, I too am a textile person. Mostly sewing things for sale, but embroidery is a special love when I can get the time to do it. I have learned to knit more recently and learned to crochet when I was a kid.

Glad to meet you too. It's always good to meet other textile people. It looks like the textiles we're most interested in are almost opposite. I've never really gotten into embroidery or crochet. I did some spinning yarn for sale a few years back. Not an efficient way to make money at all, but it gave me something to do with the yarn I kept producing. What type of sewn items do you make?

Western Utah... I worked a bio field job in eastern Utah one summer many years ago. In the Uinta mountains, based out of Vernal. Interesting. What's the gardening like in your area? What do you like to grow? It must be pretty different from Vancouver Island. We have mild winters and dry but not very warm summers. The main limit is lack of summer heat rather than length of frost-free season.

Well, I live at the foot of the Wasatch mountains in the Salt Lake City metro area. My house and garden area were once farm land in the west side of the Salt Lake valley. It is also one of the lowest spots in the valley, so we are on the bottom of the old lake Bonneville and we have very alkali, clay soil that uses as much compost as you can give it. Since we are in a desert (Utah is the second driest State in the country) we have lots of heat and this year we are heading into a drought, again.

I can grow just about any thing that can be grown in about 120 frost free days. I have had great success with tomatoes, cukes, squash, beans, peppers, but I can't grow cauliflower or brussel sprouts. It usually warms up to quickly for them or they get hammered by aphids. Every year is a challenge to one thing or another.

I have a friend who lives in Myton in eastern Utah. I used to spend weekends out there with her when she was working in Salt Lake many years ago. The Uinta mountains are beautiful, but the basin has been ravaged by oil production for many years as well as by the boom and bust economies that come with oil.

As for what I make and sell, it is mostly clothing items, aprons, trousers, jackets, sun dresses, pull over tops, hats, cloth shopping bags, shoulder bags, scarves, household items. It is a trick to get paid for your time selling these items. I can usually make enough money to cover my costs in time and materials for the things I make, but I don't make money for the time I sit in the booth selling them. However, I get to talk with a lot of nice people. I am hoping things lighten up with this pandemic and we can have a few craft markets this year.

I didn't know you sewed cloth shopping bags. What method do you use?
Since I wrote a book on the subject I'm interested!

We do the craft show circuit a little ourselves, selling our books and some bags. I mainly use the bags as a promotional item. I've added cloth bookmarks because they're infinitely faster to sew, look striking, and can use up my vast stash of costuming satin and miles of cheap lace.

When I count costs, my first goal is to pay for the booth. I can sell books at a craft show as well as at a book fair, but not that many. I look upon it as advertising because we rarely see people we've seen before, even when we've been at the same show in the same location for years. They've never heard of us, in other words. The big issue with the book business is discoverability.

The big issue I've noticed with sewn items is so many people these days do NOT sew. They buy Chinese prison-made goods or stuff from overseas factories where the seamstresses get paid 29 cents an hour and thus have no idea how much work is involved in sewing, cost of materials, etc.

Has that been your experience?

Good luck with your shows this year!

I answered your second post first then saw this one. So hopefully this won't be too disconnected.

Naturally when I am doing a craft show I am glad to make the booth fee and almost always do. The prices I charge for my wares doesn't include the time I spend in the booth, but they do cover the time I spent making them. With some items I have gotten fast enough without sacrificing quality that I do make a little headway on the time spent in the booth.

I make very simple cloth gift bags of seasonal prints as a give away when a customer has made a $30 purchase. It also provides them a non-plastic way to carry their purchase away. I do offer them for sale, but few sell, so I started giving them away in this fashion.

I have noticed at craft fairs that those vendors who sell the most product are prepared food vendors. They always offer a free sample and inevitably, the sampler will buy their product. It is much harder for us non-food vendors and I have racked my brain for a way to have a "free sample" that would entice a customer to buy something. The best I have come up with is an offer of a free try on with out obligation delivered in a coaxing, slightly humorous manner. Several times when someone tries on one of my pieces, they have purchased it. The trick is to get them to try something on. Perhaps if you were to try reading aloud from your books and make each reading a cliff hanger, that might coax people to purchase the book. I have a friend that writes Jane Austin fan fiction and she is making a tidy living from it with online sales only.

You are right about sewn items. Almost no one sews any more. It has been very gratifying when someone who knows how to sew compliments me on my technique or eye for color, but most people, given a chance after looking over my stuff, will go down the row to the vendor selling cheap Chinese import clothing and they spend their money there. I guess they feel they get a bigger bang for their buck with the cheaper clothing or maybe they are intimidated at the thought of wearing a handmade garment. Unfortunately, not all markets are handcrafted only and I do my best to avoid those markets. I also find my self biting my tongue hard when some one who has looked at one of my aprons tells her friend they can get it cheaper at Walmart. Sure, but it won't be nearly as nice and the money they spend at Walmart only makes the Walton family richer.

Thanks for your good wishes for shows this year. I am so hoping we will have some.

Sometimes, at book festivals, I'm asked to do a reading and I always do. Readings are set up separately from the booths, to allow the interested audience quiet space in which to hear the reader. I rehearse before hand. It's surprising how many authors do not.

I don't know how that would work at a booth. What we do hand out is our 16 page catalog, containing cover photos and write-ups of each of our books. We produce and print them inhouse so they're very low cost. All the information needed to buy from us is in the catalog. For us, craft shows lead to online sales because many people prefer to read on their kindle. The great thing about the catalog is I don't see them littering the ground after a show, unlike the blizzard of business cards.

I give away my bags with purchase. I have sometimes had someone buy a book because they want the bag!

I'm also giving away cloth bookmarks. The plan was to sell them too (our local bookstore owner looked at them and said $3 each) but well, Covid-19. We'll see if we sell any this year. They're advertising too. When we get custom cloth from Spoonflower for the backing fabric, they'll be even better advertising. We plan on a design of our website addresses with logos arranged in stripes.

Cloth bookmarks might work for you as a quick to make (and cheap!) impulse buy. I make seven at a time, using up my vast stash of costuming fabric. The only part I buy is wonder-under. My method does use a lot of thread so I buy it in cones.

If you're interested, email me direct with your address and I'll mail you some sample bookmarks so you can reverse engineer them. I'll include the directions too. You already know the key with production sewing: fast and efficient.

One thing I can say about my cloth bookmarks as opposed to our books or cloth market bags; no one has seen anything like them so they can't buy cheap Chinese prison-labor duplicates down at Walmart.

I suppose it could be too noisy or distracting to read in your booth. The book marks are a good alternative. I will send you my address as I would like to see them for sure.

Got it!
I'll write up my directions since it's not intuitive and mail them out along with some samples.

On what site does your friend sell Jane Austen fan fiction? Maybe I could sell my story 'Ruinous Love' there? Or write a new one that uses JA characters instead of her plot set in modern times.

She self publishes on Amazon. Her name is Melanie Schertz. Here is a link to some of her books on Amazon. The dog you see pictured on the cover of the book titled "A Royal Bennett" is a picture of her actual dog, Darcy. I haven't read these since it isn't my style, but I was mightily impressed how she has made a living from this endevour.


Melanie Schertz has some nice covers. Very genre appropriate along with specific titles so the reader isn't misled. Her numbers are quite respectable.

Would she be interested in a Jane Austen suggestion?

I've always wondered about Lucy Steele. She's the villainous in Sense and Sensibility. She's a social climber with nothing but her looks, her native cunning, and tentative social connections to recommend her. I always thought it quite natural that she went after the Ferrars brothers. She didn't care which one. Either would do if it got her higher up the social ladder.

I've always thought that Jane Austen's own class biases blinded her to Lucy Steele, uppity manipulative wants to be more than she should be girl. Yet Lucy Steele is doing what she has to do, if she wants to be more.

She's not nice and sweet. She's got her eye on the main chance. She's like Becky Sharpe that way.

I'd like to read a JA story where Lucy Steele is the heroine, fighting against the odds to escape her limited, poor world and enter the larger, more exciting one.

I can't write JA fanfiction so Lucy Steele's story is out of my range. But I'd like to read it!

I can always suggest it to her. This isn't my kind of fiction, so I have no idea where her stories have wandered to.

That's quite a different environment from any I've gardened in. All my gardening has been on the southern part of the BC coast.

Farmer's markets/craft markets are fun. I've done a bit of that when living in Powell River. My mom was growing vegetables and seedlings, plus selling food and other items. I helped a bit with that, and made and sold polmer clay sculptures and figurines. Not really the right place for that, and I didn't make much, but it was interesting to do and I made a little money. Made some pretty interesting polymer clay things, too.

I hope you're able to sell at craft markets again soon.

I sew, usually repair work along with cloth marketing bags (I wrote a book about them), cloth bookmarks, and whatever else comes to mind.

I do like crewel embroidery but I've never designed my own pictures. I search for kits at thrift shops. Crewel seems to be deeply unfashionable these days. It's all counted cross stitch which is designed to make you go blind and crazy.

I used to be able to knit a scarf. That's it. My daughter taught herself to crochet and does it very well.

Do you quilt? I do that too, but not like anyone else.

As for your style of cloth marketing bags, I bought a copy of your fine little book, but unfortunately, I have to keep my bags as simple as possible to sell any at all. I do make more complex bags and charge accordingly when I go to sell them. My most popular items are the clothing items and I try to keep them as simple as possible to keep my costs down. I am usually able to get all my fabrics at sale prices and lately I have found a lot of good stuff at thrift stores, so most of the cost of my items are in the amount of time I put into them.

You are right, crewel isn't very popular at this time. I remember Erica Wilson's books and projects and really liked them. I have never been a really big fan of counted cross stitch, although I have done my share. At the moment I am really enamored of stumpwork and gold work. I am currently working on my long and short stitch as to me it seems to really express the idea of "embroidery" although I know there are so many more beautiful forms. Life just isn't long enough.

I don't quilt, but my mother does and I have helped her from time to time on one of her projects and she has helped me as well. We also raid each other's stash and of course make things for one another. I try really hard to make gifts for friends and family, but sometimes I just run out of space.

What is your different quilting method?

Do you incorporate altered couture for your clothing items? I've seen a lot of it around here and it seems to sell. At any rate, I've seen the same vendors at various shows over several years and they're still in business. Since altered couture starts with thrift shop clothing, it's got a lower initial cost for the raw materials.

One of the cutest items I've seen is little purses for going out with that are made of colored, lacy bras! The bra cups make a little clamshell bag. Color is the key here. Fire engine red or black.

As for my quilting method, I call it NotQuilting. Technically, they're not quilts as they're assembled as a single unit. I generally start with a dead electric blanket. Start with surgery on the blanket to remove the guts and binding. Sew on a backing fabric (scrap from the stash), snap chalk lines on the front for an overall design, and then sew patches on until the entire fashion face is finished. Backing, quilting, and piecing in one. It gets difficult as the quilt gets larger and heavier, shoving it all through the machine. The end result is like a crazy quilt. I wrote a lot of posts on our website and they'll eventually be turned into a book.

Here are two links to our website so you can see better what I'm talking about:



NotQuilts are utility quilts. They keep the sleeper warm and should not use any purchased material at all, other than picking up a dead electric blanket out of Goodwill's bargain bin. Everything, including the binding, comes out of the stash. I don't pay much attention to thread color either, using up whatever is closest in color.

I haven't done much with altered couture except tee-shirts. I have turned them into skimmer tops with fancy buttons at the shoulders and waist, but it is hard to find the right tee-shirt for this as the pattern requires you start with a rather large shirt and one with a pattern on the front that works if you turn it 90 degrees. I picked up a couple of books that show all kinds of alterations to tee-shirts for modern, youth oriented clothing, but I found I could do the same thing with fancy knit fabrics and voila, a very cool, fancy top was made for very little time or money and it would appeal to older women who make up most of my clientele. The clam shell bags sound rather interesting, but I am not sure they would go over here.

I like your quilt idea too, it made me think of crazy quilts. I have used a similar technique to attach good looking patches to a plane ground fabric to give it an artsy look for a jacket or wrap, but this takes time of course and costs go up. I remember "camp" quilts from my younger days that were made by older relatives. The technique of re-purposing an old blanket for the batting was used, but they usually pieced the top together with large squares of still sound used denim and then purchased or perhaps repurposed other fabric for the back then just tied the thing together. Sometimes both sides were denim and that made for a very heavy and rugged quilt to sit on for a picnic on the ground. Many a firework show was seen on top of one of those.

I've done a little as a kid, but that was really my grandmother's favorite craft, not mine. Do you do patchwork quilts? Some of them are amazing.

I don't sew patchwork quilts anymore although I made a few decades ago.

Too many little pieces to cut out and then sew back together!

I make NotQuilts these days as I don't have to do much cutting of scrap from the stash. I pull out pieces that are approximately the right color or theme and about the right size and sew them down.

Theme and color matter most: i.e., all cats or all airborne objects or all fall colors. I don't stress over it.


You can see from the gallery that NotQuilts look like pieced quilts until you get closer and see the unevenness of the joints between pieces. That's an artifact of the sewing process where they're laid on on top of the other rather than sewn together, right sides together and then ironed flat.

Certainly in the spirit of the original patchwork quilts. I'm not really sure how the process differs from applique. Is it because you're sewing the patches onto something that already has the batting inside it?

I sew my patches directly onto the blanket/batting and backing.
If a patch's edge is going to show, I'll turn under a hem.
If the patch's edge is going to be covered by another patch, I leave the raw edge.

I do NOT know what the final result will be until I'm done. I have an idea of what the quilt will look like but the final results can be rather different.

That makes sense. Thanks.

Pygmycory- so happy to see you here! I also live on Vancouver Island and always appreciate your comments on JMGs site. I live in the central island. I’m a long time vegetable gardener and on again off again crafts person. I’m especially interested in food cooking and preservation. Was pleased to see your comments on JMGs post on Beans and Rice and ways to prepare them inexpensively. Theresa from Hershey- you are another of the commenters on Ecosphia that I always read and appreciate. Lots of practical and thoughtful info. Thanks to both of you and of course all the other commenters here who provide some sanity in a seemingly crazy world.

and also to see another person from nearby. I find the people and information on collapse and green wizard related topics have a very strong tilt towards the USA. It is perfectly understandable, but it has meant I often end up knowing more about the situation in the USA than in Canada. Which is very interesting, but I find it frustrating not to understand how these things are impacting where I am. Which is why I keep talking about Canada on there.

What type of crafts do you do?

I've done a little food storage, but apart from freezing berries to eat on cereal over the winter, I don't find I do much most of the time. There's almost always something in season coming out of my garden. That does mean I get a bit sick of kale by the middle of may, though.

Yes -I get the tired of kale by spring thing! I grew chard, mizuna and Italian dandelion all winter this year as well. It all depends on how mild the winter is. I’ve been gardening for over 50 years, some of that on homesteads and now in a typical backyard. I just got a greenhouse for the first time so am experimenting with extending my season, bedding starts and looking forward to trying heat lovers like tomatoes and cucs in it this year. My grolight experiments this year we’re not very successful because the lights were too narrow.I thought I wouldn’t bother with it next year, but as luck would have it my neighbour is renovating a house and has two fluorescent light fixtures that will I think be just what I need. One of the things I love about growing veg are the endless challenges and successes that each year brings. Always something new to learn! I’ve done a lot of preserving over the years but not as much now that I’m on my own. I still enjoy to can, freeze my favourites. I’ve been freezing a lot of bone broth but will pressure can the next batch. I like the shelf stability it offers. If push came to shove I could expand my garden if necessary. One of my children’s work is precarious, and she’s a single parent, so it would be practical to consider that option. I’ve been very involved in local, sustainable and regenerative farming since the 70s. I wish I was still on the homestead but life changes!
I agree that Ecosophia is USA centred and understandably. I appreciate that JMG is very open to info from other parts of the globe, so all comments from other countries is informative. I love the comments as much as JMGs posts and really appreciate his moderating to keep things civil. The commentariat there and here are top notch in my books. I don’t follow many other blogs because: crazy! Hope your garden is a success this year!

Thanks! And may your garden grow well and the deer not eat it before you do.

The latter happened to a large part of my fall/winter garden last year. No fall peas for me. Oh well. They almost never get in.

Hi Robyn,

I'm glad you find what I have to say useful.

Practical advice is so helpful. I'm always looking for more, myself, so I can be more effective.

Thanks Theresa! I’m always drawn to the practical as well. This site provides a lot of that. And so important to get it out there as we head down the slope of decline and LESS. Not a bad thing in my book! Hope your growing season is bountiful!

Hi Robyn and Pygmycory, I'm in BC too. I've appreciated seeing Canadian perspectives brought into the Ecosophia discussions—I also feel like too often I know more about what's happening in the US than here.

I've been thinking it would be great to have some kind of email list or private forum for Canadian ecosophians to connect—especially by region. One day we might be able to have a potluck or something to get to know our green wizardly neighbours (tried to arrange something like that a while back but I didn't end up living somewhere I could host a gathering).

Would you or any other Canadians on here be interested in such a thing?